There is no more time for excuses and no more second chances because It’s finals time in the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition.
The condensed finals schedule this season means there is even more pressure on remaining four sides Sydney United 58, Sydney Olympic, Wollongong Wolves and Rockdale City as they battle for a spot in the grand final and a shot at championship glory.
First placed Rockdale Ilinden FC will be gunning for the Premiership and Championship double on Saturday night when they host fourth-placed Sydney Olympic at Ilinden Sports Centre.
While on Sunday, second-placed Wollongong Wolves will host third-placed Sydney United 58 at Albert Butler Memorial Park.
Rockdale Ilinden FC v Sydney Olympic, 7pm Saturday at linden Sports Centre
Rockdale Ilinden’s time for celebration is over and it is time to get back to business as the newly crowned premiers take on Sydney Olympic at Ilinden Sports Centre this Saturday.
The Steven Zoric coached side created history last week as they secured Rockdale’s first Premiership in more than half a century with an exciting 2-1 win against North Shore Mariners to finish the season ahead of second-placed Wollongong on goal difference.
It has been an incredible campaign for Rockdale who have finally delivered on their potential after years of falling short.
Zoric has managed to get the most out of his squad and found a consistency which has been lacking in previous seasons.
It is the midfield which has been Rockdale’s powerhouse this year with Japanese playmaker Tomoki Wada the fulcrum.
Wada is a brilliant box-to-box midfielder who operates the middle of the pitch and is just as capable of scoring goal as he is creating them.
Mitchell Stamatellis has also provided much-needed experience and composure
Defensively Rockdale has also made a massive jump forward this season with the tandem of Daniel Petkovski and Banri Kanaizumi helping their team finish the campaign with the best defensive record.
They will be tested in a big way on Saturday against the high profile Sydney Olympic attack of Charles Lokolingoy, Fabio Ferreira and Adam Parkhouse.
Olympic started the season well but have slowed in the lead up to the finals as was evident in their 1-1 draw against Mt Druitt in the final round.
The Ante Juric coached side have struggled to get the most out of their highly credentialed squad and will need to rediscover the formula to their early-season success.
Experienced NPL NSW Men’s campaigners like Jason Madonis, Thomas Whiteside and Christopher ‘Hagi’ Gligor will need to lead from the front in a season-defining match.
Olympic will look to attack early and the question will be if Rockdale is focused on the job at hand or are still celebrating their premiership win.
Alec Urosevski has had the pressure of being Rockdale’s primary offensive weapon lifted off his shoulders this season and if he is used as a super-sub like he was last week could be the man to change the game while Amaury Gauthier has also been in lethal form and could pose a huge threat.
This match is very even on paper and with a grand final berth on the line, neither side is going to take it easy.
Leading Club Scorers
Rockdale Ilinden: Gauthier 6 goals, Urosevski 4 goals, Wada 4 goals.
Sydney Olympic: Lokolingoy 5 goals, Parkhouse 4 goals, Ferriera 3 goals.
Wollongong Wolves v Sydney United 58, 3pm Sunday at Albert Butler Memorial Park
Wollongong Wolves may have narrowly missed out on securing back-to-back premiership, but it means they will be more determined than ever when they host Sydney United 58 for a spot in this season’s grand final.
It is the second straight year these two sides have faced off at this stage of the competition with United 58 claiming a shock upset to secure a grand final berth in 2019.
Despite a dominant 5-2 win against Manly United in the final round, it wasn’t enough for the Luke WIlkshire coached Wolves to end the season in first place after narrowly falling short on only goal difference.
It’s a result which will surely fire-up the South Coast based side and of course Wilkshire going into this crunch clash.
Wollongong has been a model of consistency for most of the season and it is this which will play a major role if they’re to qualify for the grand final.
Defenders Taylor McDonald and Nick Littler have been sound at the back all season for Wollongong setting a brilliant platform for the rest of the side to build from.
However, it is the Wolves attack which has been their biggest strength over the second half of the season.
Japenese playmaker Takeru Okada has been in scintillating form this campaign providing a playmaking outlet for the side as well as chipping in with a few goals of his own.
Marcus Beattie scored a hat-trick in Wollongong’s final game of the regular season and will come into the finals series brimming with confidence.
Finally, the pairing of Thomas James and Josh Bingham at the top of the attack gives Wollongong two of the leagues best strikers and is sure to create plenty of headaches for the opposition.
That team will be a United 58 outfit who claimed a dominant 4-2 win against APIA in the final round.
The Anthony Crea coached side have already claimed a victory on the road against Wollongong this season and will be more than a handful to contain.
Boasting a midfield full of skilful scheming playmakers who can cut a defence to pieces with a few passes, United 58 are a side which can win a game in more ways than one.
The group of Glen Trifiro, Devante Clut, Mat Sim and Yianni Perkatis are tricky customers who are just as adept at playing through a solid defensive block as they are stinging their opponent on the counter.
Leading the charge upfront is prolific marksman Patrick Antelmi.
Much has been said about how Antelmi has lifted his game to a new game this season after a stint with A-League outfit Western United.
The former Blacktown City star has long been a talented attacking option, but this season he has evolved into a complete forward capable of scoring from any situation.
This game has the potential to be a shootout with both sides likely to flex their attacking firepower at every opportunity.
Expect this game to go down to the wire as both Wollongong and United 58 are capable of snaring a late goal or two.
There is set to be plenty of fireworks in this one and with a grand final place on the line expect nothing less.
Leading Club Scorers
Wollongong Wolves – Bingham 6 goals, Scott 4 goals, Beattie 4 goals, Okada 4 goals.
Sydney United 58 – Antelmi 9 goals, Sim 4 goals, Clut 3 goals.